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The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the first screening test for colon cancer that uses patients' DNA to help spot potentially deadly tumors and growths. The Cologuard test from Exact Sciences detects irregular mutations in stool samples that can be an early warning sign of cancer. Cologuard detected 92 percent of colon cancers and 42 percent of advanced polyps in a study of 10,000 patients, while traditional blood screening only detected 74 percent of cancers and 24 percent of advanced polyps.
Current federal guidelines recommend traditional stool tests every year and a colonoscopy every 10 years for patients between ages 50 and 75. Colonoscopy is the most accurate method for spotting colon cancer but many adults are reluctant to undergo the invasive procedure, which requires sedation as doctors probe the colon with a camera-fitted endoscope. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., with over 50,000 deaths expected this year, according to the American Cancer Society.